The 37-year-old pitched through discomfort earlier in the summer but shut himself down temporarily after making 24 straight starts for San Diego to begin the year.
Darvish and the Padres locked their futures together before spring training ahead of his final season under team control. Considering the success Darvish saw in both of his campaigns with the Padres, keeping the arm who earned Cy Young award for his work in 2022 made sense. Padres general manager A.J. Preller and Darvish agreed to a deal through 2028 that will keep the right-hander in brown and gold through 2028.
With the season all but wrapped up for the Padres, attention is starting to go towards 2024, with the expectation that Darvish will be a large part of any success San Diego enjoys next year. With the recent injury news, optimism about his future with the Padres could potentially be dimmed.
Locking in Darvish to the future rotation added a layer to an otherwise uncertain group. Joe Musgrove signed his extension last summer and will be starting for the Padres, but other current starters are not guaranteed to be in San Diego next season, given their contract situations. Most nobly being Blake Snell‘s free agency following his Cy Young Award campaign.
Seth Lugo, in his return to starting pitching, thrived in 2023, and his 3.80 performance in 125 innings should earn him more on the open market than his $7.5 million player option in 2024. Michael Wacha‘s contract situation is unique given the Padres need to make a decision for both 2024 and 2025 by picking up club options for $16 million each season, where, if declined, Wacha could join Lugo on the open market and make more than his would-be $6.5 million player option.
Nick Martinez, who began the season starting but has made 53 relief appearances to only six starts, is under team control like Wacha with the simultaneous options for each of the next two seasons for $16 million. The move to the bullpen worked out better in 2022 for Martinez, but he limited runs well in his starts in April despite working deep into his outings. San Diego may want to bring Martinez back again and try him for a rotation spot, but the price is steep for an arm who hasn’t proven himself as a starting pitcher.
Options do exist within the organization, but not much appears dependable. Pedro Avila impressed on several occasions, but the Padres seemed cautious with moving Avila to the rotation, and he is walking five batters per nine innings. Jay Groome stood out in his ten starts with the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas but did not see the same success in a full workload of 126.2 innings after 144 frames at two levels in 2022. The southpaw can handle being a starter, but his 8.31 ERA and 130/99 strikeout-to-walk ratio are concerning.
Young arms are rising but saw limited action with Double-A San Antonio toward the end of the minor league season. Adam Mazur and Jairo Iriarte showed that they belonged and could be with the major league club in 2024 but might benefit from more time on the farm. Left-handed top-prospect Robby Snelling is only 19 years old but has leaped to Double-A quickly and could factor himself into the equation a year from now.
The future of San Diego pitching is bright, but 2024 is a tad murky. Yu Darvish and his health will be massive wild card given his health. Melvin is hopeful that rest for his veteran pitcher allows for a fresh start in 2024 and no elbow problems lingering through the offseason and next.
“Well, that’s what we are hoping for right now,” Melvin said. “We will see where it goes, and once he feels good and is able to start throwing again, we will evaluate that.”
Preller hit big on two free-agent starters in the offseason who delivered continually despite questions throughout regarding Wacha and Lugo, and he may have to do so again this winter. How Darvish progresses in the upcoming months may influence Preller on his aggressiveness regarding arms.
Dominic is currently a Senior at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, studying Sports Journalism. He also hosts the “Devils Talking Padres” podcast and is the producer and co-host of the “Padres EVT Podcast.